Ukrainian Flag Raised In Kherson As Troops Enter City

Ukrainian Flag Raised In Kherson As Troops Enter City

In extraordinary scenes, crowds of jubilant residents greeted Ukraine’s armed forces as they reached the centre of Kherson, as Russia’s retreat from the key strategic city appeared to have descended into chaos.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, hailed a “historic day” as he confirmed on Friday evening that special units of armed forces were already in the city and others stationed on its approach. “We are in the process of taking Kherson back,” he said in a video address.

A crowd of residents, some tearful, earlier raised Ukrainian flags around the central Svoboda Square and gathered to greet the first troops to reach the city centre, embracing the arriving Ukrainian soldiers.

Chanting “Glory to the ZSU [Ukraine’s armed forces],” two men picked up one female soldier on their shoulders and tossed her into the air. Other residents wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags, as one man wept with joy.

Elsewhere, crowds lining Kherson’s streets unfurled a giant blue and yellow banner as cars took to the streets honking their horns in celebration.

Confirming the liberation of the city, the country’s defense ministry announced on social media: “Kherson is returning to Ukrainian control and units of the armed forces of Ukraine are entering the city.”

It added that its artillery had clear views over Russia’s escape routes, warning: “Any attempts to oppose the armed forces of Ukraine will be stopped.”

The scenes unfolded at the end of an emotionally charged and dramatic 24 hours in which Russian forces pulled back from the city – the only major city Moscow had managed to take in almost nine months of the war – in disarray and Ukrainian forces advanced through the suburbs to the historic heart of Kherson.

For Russia, the liberation of Kherson marked the latest, and most serious, of a string of battlefield defeats amid widely circulated images of Russian infantry hurrying to escape over a soon-to-be-destroyed pontoon over the Dnipro River in the morning mist, as Russia’s defence ministry said it had withdrawn about 30,000 troops.

The retreat comes six weeks after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, announced the annexation of Kherson and three other regions at a high-profile ceremony in Moscow.

As Ukrainian armour and columns of infantry closed on Kherson throughout Friday morning, they were cheered by flag-waving civilians in the towns, villages and suburbs of Kherson they had liberated.

The liberation of Kherson was cheered around Ukraine, not least by those who had been forced to flee the city during the brutal Russian occupation.

Olena Kovalenko, who had left the city in September for the west of Ukraine, told the Guardian: “This is the best day ever. We are all crying tears of joy. I dreamed of this day but thought it wouldn’t happen so fast. I can’t wait to go back and see everyone I love.”

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